Pressure is on for Meyer and Deans

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer. Picture: Aletta Gardner/EWN.

SYDNEY - When your national team is ranked second in the world and are going into a test looking to extend a winning streak over a strong rival to five games, talk in most countries would not be of crisis. Australia is not most countries.

On the back of successive losses to New Zealand, defeat to South Africa in the Rugby Championship in Perth on Saturday is almost certain to see already febrile criticism of the Wallabies, and coach Robbie Deans in particular, boil over.

It would also officially mark Australia's decline as they would slip below the Springboks into third place in the world rankings on Monday.

Popular consensus is that All Blacks are far and away the best team in world rugby and the International Rugby Board's rankings reflect that, with the world champions having retained the top spot for the best part of three years.

The Wallabies would already have lost their position as 'best of the rest' two weeks ago after the 22-0 defeat to New Zealand in Auckland had the Springboks not been held to a 16-16 draw by Argentina.

While no one would pretend the IRB rankings mean anything as much as test victories, the loss of second place would present critics of 'Dingo' Deans with another stick to beat him.

The 53-year-old New Zealander, in his fifth season in charge of the Wallabies, is already battling the perception that Australia have lost their way under his stewardship.

It was as much the manner of the successive defeats to the All Blacks that upset rugby fans in Australia with the Wallabies mustering just one try over the two tests, and that from lock Nathan Sharpe rather than the much-vaunted backline.

Former Wallaby fullback Greg Martin opined Australia must beat the Springboks on Saturday and win both Rugby Championship tests against newcomers Argentina or Deans's position will be untenable.

"I'd say it would be irresistible pressure," he told Fox Sports. "It would make members of the board really twitchy, and twitchy enough to pull the trigger."

Deans has, of course, been under fire already this season after Australia lost to Scotland in a Newcastle gale, only for the Wallabies to sweep Six Nation Grand Slam champions Wales 3-0 in a test series.

Prop Ben Alexander said the players took responsibility for the defeat in Auckland - the first time Australia had been held scoreless by New Zealand for half a century - and backed themselves to put it right.

"That criticism of Robbie, it hurts us too because it's how we played and a reflection of us and how we represented our country, and we didn't do a great job," he told reporters in Perth on Thursday.

"We got stood up by the best side in the world and we've copped that on the chin and we've looked back and they exposed us everywhere," he added. "Now we get a chance to right those wrongs."

Fortunately for Deans, the South Africa camp has problems of its own with criticism of the unambitious tactics employed by coach Heyneke Meyer reaching a crescendo after the draw with the Pumas.

Meyer clearly believes a wounded Wallaby is a dangerous Wallaby and his Springbok side face an uphill task in breaking their run of defeats and establishing themselves, officially at least, as the second best side on the world.

"I know the psyche of the Australian rugby players. They will definitely come out with all guns blazing," the South African said.

"They are a proud team and they have been together for quite some time. There is obviously a lot of pressure on them and we are probably the underdogs."